To get into the head of a landscape architect is to see renovated gardens (at least this year) filled with rain barrels, fire pits and native plants. Hammocks? Not so much. I can predict this with relative confidence because The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) conducted a survey last month (February, 2016) to capture residential landscape architecture trends for 2016. Over 800 of these garden experts responded, rating their expected popularity of garden design elements. The results are encouraging. What came across clearly overall is that top-of-mind for designers is environmental sustainability, reduction of water usage and stormwater runoff and a demand for low maintenance.
Here are the TOP TEN PROJECT TYPES that landscape architects expect will have the highest consumer demand:
- Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 88%
- Native plants – 86%
- Native/adapted drought tolerant plants – 85%
- Low-maintenance landscapes – 85%
- Permeable paving – 77%
- Fire pits/fireplaces – 75%
- Food/vegetable gardens (including orchards, vineyards, etc.) – 75%
- Rain gardens – 73%
- Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 72%
- Reduced lawn area – 72%
Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence, then, that at the recent Stratford garden festival, I discovered Irrigatia, a solar automatic watering system that combines rainwater harvesting (Project #1) and water efficient irrigation (Project #9). Invented in Britain, with an Ontario-based distributor for Canadian gardeners, the SMART irrigation controller uses solar power to detect the weather and adjust watering for precise irrigation using water from your rain barrel. You can use the system to water pots, raised beds, hanging baskets, vegetable plots and small to medium-sized gardens. (Click on any photo for more details. Photos used with kind permission of Irrigatia.ca.)
Also at that festival, I stumbled (figuratively speaking) upon some of those permeable pavers (Project #5). Unfortunately, they’re the ones touted as enviro friendly because they’re made from recycled tires. Yes, by using these porous pavers, you can save “an amazing 6300 gallons of water per hour as it passes through each square foot of surface area” and, yes, “every 1000 square feet of 2″ pavers saves approximately 300 tires from landfill”. However, there are two really big problems with this product that I must warn you about. First, recycled rubber leachates are toxic to the environment. Second, recycled rubber is flammable. This particular product I saw had a NFPA fire rating Class ‘C’ which happens to be the worst. I wouldn’t install recycled rubber pavers anywhere near a BBQ. Well, I wouldn’t install recycled rubber anything in my garden. There are porous pavers out there that aren’t made of recycled rubber. Buyer be wary.
Of the 18 listed OUTDOOR DESIGN ELEMENTS expected to be the most popular, the top three are fire pits/fireplaces (75%), lighting (67%), and wireless/internet connectivity (66%). Given the number of exhibits I just saw at Canada Blooms that were lit up, wired up and fired up to jaw-dropping levels of sophistication, I’m not surprised. It’s interesting that grills (American-speak for BBQ) clocked in at seventh most popular (54%). Could it be that we’ve already got the barbecue set-up under control? If you’re like most Canadians, the ‘cue is a year-round cooking tool. I was sad to see that hammocks (21%) were way down the ranking at number 17, only slightly more popular than bedrooms/sleeping spaces (11%) which ranked last. But I guess that if you’re switching on your gas fire pit, partying until all hours on your fully lit patio while playing music and posting selfies thanks to your complete connectivity, you might not have the time or the inclination to retreat to a hammock to do, well, nothing. Shame really.
Native plants came out at #1 in the list of TOP TEN LANDSCAPE/GARDEN ELEMENTS. And although second spot went to low-maintenance landscapes (85%), we’re not afraid of getting down and dirty in order to grow our own vegetables and fruit (75%). I love that plant walls/vertical gardens (61%) ranked 7th of the top ten. And interestingly, decorative water elements (fountains, waterfalls, grottoes, etc.) and ponds/streams were at the bottom of the list at 9th place (46%) and 10th place (29%) respectively.
When it comes to outdoor structures, first place in popularity went to pergolas (51%) while gazebos came in last (24%). I had a brain freeze over this one. If you’re like me, I’ve added some visual references to help (see below). The predicted to be very-in-demand pergola (open sides and roof) is on the left. The unfortunately not-so-popular gazebo (solid roof) is on the right.
I don’t have the room or the budget for either construction at the moment. But that’s OK. I’ve got my eye on a hammock that might fit quite nicely between two trees at the back of the garden. That’s where I’ll be able to rest from my trend-bucking ways.